Giving is the true meaning of Christmas, as demonstrated by this small community’s generosity.
Volunteers from the Manawa Rural Fire Department helped deliver food and presents for the Manawa Area Community Food Pantry on Wednesday, Dec. 18.
The Christmas Dinner Basket Program was started by the MAC Food Pantry in 1994 as a way to help needy people during the holiday season.
Each family receives gifts and enough food to make a Christmas meal, including a ham or turkey, potatoes, cranberries, fresh fruit, vegetables and dessert.
“There are people who need this,” said Barb Baumgartner, one of the four co-chairs for the Christmas Basket program.
“Many families are struggling to make ends meet,” she said.
Families needing help are asked to fill out an application, including the age, clothes size and a Christmas wish list for each child.
The child’s information is then put on “giving tree” tags at First State Bank and Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where community members can choose a tag.
Wish lists of senior citizens are also included.
“Most children get two gifts or more, depending on the decision of the donor,” Baumgartner said.
The food is donated by local businesses or purchased from community donations.
“We have lots of volunteers and donors for this project and we really appreciate that,” said Carol Spiegelberg, who serves on the MAC board.
The Christmas baskets are packed by volunteers the day previous to the scheduled delivery date.
Firefighters and fire trucks deliver the gifts and food to each home.
“The community supports the fire department, so we’re just returning the favor,” said Dan Boerst, interim assistant chief.
A total of three fire trucks, one ambulance, 12 firefighters and one volunteer delivered the packages.
“Everybody is real grateful for the assistance provided,” said Josh Smith, the newly-elected assistant chief. “We heard a lot of thank you’s.”
The volunteers noted that delivering the packages can be an emotional experience.
“We went to deliver to one family and they were giving us hugs and saying ‘God bless you,’” said firefighter Jen Uttecht. “It is people like them that make this worthwhile.”
Uttecht admitted she had tears in her eyes at that moment, but she was not the only firefighter who cried.
“This is our way of helping the community have the best Christmas possible,” Smith said. “As far as we’re concerned, it’s all about the giving, which is the true meaning of Christmas.”